Faith, Understanding, and the Boundaries of Human Reason

User: Why do dogs think that what we (humans) do is always on purpose? Like, if I knock down a bottle because I am clumsy, my dog would be really sorry and deeply apologize.

Assistant: Dogs are highly perceptive and empathetic animals, and they often respond to their owners’ emotions and actions. If you knock down a bottle and react in a certain way, your dog might interpret your reaction as a sign that something is wrong. They might then respond by showing submissive behavior, which can look like an apology. However, it’s important to note that dogs don’t have the same understanding of intent or purpose as humans do. They react more to the immediate situation and the emotions of their owners, rather than understanding the concept of someone doing something on purpose.

User: If we hoist the level of abstraction and say that humans think that what God does is always on purpose; can we say that humans do not have the same understanding of intent as God does? And that humans react (literally and metaphorically) to their immediate situation rather than grasping the intent of God?

Assistant: Yes, that’s a possible interpretation. Many religious and philosophical traditions suggest that humans cannot fully understand the intent or purpose of a higher power, such as God. In these traditions, it’s often believed that God or a similar entity has a broader perspective and understanding of the universe than humans do. Therefore, humans might react to immediate situations or perceived signs from God without fully understanding the intent behind them. This is a complex and deeply personal topic, and different people may have different beliefs about it.

User: We can toss in Gödel’s theorem of incompleteness; would that give a solid mathematical frame to what we said so far?

Assistant: Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems are mathematical and logical concepts that state:

  1. Any consistent formal system within which a certain amount of arithmetic can be done is incomplete; i.e., there are statements of the language of that system which can neither be proved nor disproved in the system.
  2. No consistent system can prove its own consistency.

Applying these theorems to the discussion about understanding God’s intent or a dog understanding human intent is a bit of a stretch, as these theorems are specifically about formal mathematical systems. However, if we were to draw a parallel, it could be said that just as a mathematical system cannot fully understand or prove all truths within itself, humans or dogs may not be able to fully understand the intent or actions of a higher order being or species.

However, it’s important to note that this is a metaphorical and not a direct application of Gödel’s theorems. The theorems themselves are about mathematical logic and don’t directly address questions of understanding or intent in the way humans or animals might experience them.

User: I understand it is a stretch, but I like to think the human experience and cognition as a closed system, therefore it cannot prove itself. There is a limit to what we (humans) can reason about and say that it is true. This might change (at least conceptually) with the use of AI. AI can be like a reflection of the human experience and be used as a “test suite” for ideas and concepts. What do you think?

Assistant: That’s an interesting perspective. Indeed, if we consider human cognition as a closed system, there would be limits to what we can understand or prove, similar to the constraints in Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems.

As for AI, it can certainly provide new ways to explore and test ideas. AI can process and analyze vast amounts of data much faster than a human can, and it can identify patterns and connections that might be difficult for humans to see. It can also simulate complex systems and scenarios, which can help us understand potential outcomes and implications of different actions or ideas.

However, it’s important to remember that AI is a tool created by humans, and it operates based on the rules and algorithms that humans program into it. While AI can help us explore and test ideas in new ways, it doesn’t necessarily provide a complete or objective perspective. It’s still limited by the data it’s given and the algorithms it uses, which are influenced by human understanding and biases.

So, while AI can certainly be a powerful tool for expanding our understanding, it’s not a panacea. It’s one part of a broader toolkit that includes human intuition, creativity, and critical thinking.

User: I understand. What would be needed then for humans to be able to transcend the limits of their cognitive system? AI developed by another AI? Intelligent beings from another solar system?

Assistant: Transcending the limits of human cognition is a complex and speculative topic. Here are a few possibilities:

  1. AI Development: As you suggested, AI developed by another AI could potentially lead to systems that can solve problems and understand concepts beyond human capabilities. This is often referred to as the concept of “recursive self-improvement” or the creation of an “Artificial Superintelligence”. However, this also raises significant ethical and safety concerns.
  2. Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Contact with intelligent beings from another solar system could potentially provide new perspectives and knowledge that transcend human understanding. However, this is purely speculative and depends on the existence of such beings and our ability to communicate with them.
  3. Cognitive Enhancement: Advances in neuroscience and technology could potentially lead to direct enhancements of human cognition, such as memory implants, neural interfaces, or nootropic drugs. However, these technologies are in early stages of development and their long-term effects are not yet known.
  4. Collective Intelligence: By working together in new ways, humans can collectively solve problems that are beyond the capabilities of any individual. The internet and other communication technologies have greatly increased our ability to share knowledge and collaborate on a global scale.
  5. Education and Knowledge Sharing: Improving access to education and knowledge can help humanity as a whole to reach higher levels of understanding and problem-solving ability.

Each of these possibilities comes with its own set of challenges and ethical considerations. It’s also important to remember that understanding and intelligence are multifaceted - they involve not just problem-solving ability, but also emotional intelligence, creativity, wisdom, and many other aspects.

User: Point 4 and 5 is basically what humanity is doing, and it has been doing in the past couple of millennia; would that mean that every generation gets to have a wider cognitive system therefore is capable of answering question that were impossible before. In a hierarchy of cognition, every human generation gets closer to God level (if point 4 and 5 are done right). That would make the sentence said by Ulysses in Dante’s Inferno very true: “fatti non foste a viver come bruti, ma per cercar virtute e canoscenza”. This is could be the hallmark of humanity.

Assistant: Yes, your interpretation aligns with a common perspective on human progress. Each generation, through education and collective intelligence, has the potential to expand its understanding and capabilities, building upon the knowledge and wisdom of previous generations. This process can lead to a gradual expansion of our collective cognitive system, allowing us to tackle increasingly complex problems and questions.

The quote you mentioned from Dante’s Inferno, spoken by Ulysses, translates to “You were not made to live like brutes, but to pursue virtue and knowledge.” This indeed encapsulates the idea of human beings striving for continuous improvement and enlightenment, which is a fundamental aspect of many philosophical and ethical systems.

However, it’s important to note that progress is not guaranteed or automatic. It requires effort, curiosity, and a commitment to learning and ethical behavior. And while we may expand our knowledge and capabilities, there will always be new questions and challenges to face. The journey of seeking knowledge and understanding is ongoing.

User: So we can say that humanity can tend to the God level and never reach it? Like it is not possible to reach the speed of light, but just get really really close?

Assistant: Yes, that’s one way to conceptualize it. Just as reaching the speed of light is a limit in physics, fully understanding the universe or reaching a “God level” of knowledge and understanding could be considered a limit in the realm of cognition and understanding. We can continually learn more and expand our understanding, but there may always be questions that are beyond our grasp. This perspective aligns with the concept of the “asymptote” in mathematics, where a curve approaches a line but never quite reaches it. It’s a way of understanding the idea of infinite progress towards a goal, without ever actually reaching that goal.

User: So we are back to Gödel’s theorem of incompleteness: regardless of how much human understanding of the universe expands, it will always be within the limits of what we called earlier, the human cognitive system; and from within the system it is not possible to prove itself. So humanity really needs an external input to transcend that limit. But even if we get that input let us say from more a more advanced civilization, would we be able to understand it? Or it will have to be accepted as true and believe in it, with faith?

Assistant: Your interpretation is indeed a possible one. If we consider human understanding as a system, Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems would suggest that there are truths about the universe that we can never fully prove or understand from within our own system of understanding.

As for receiving input from a more advanced civilization, it’s hard to say whether we would be able to understand it. It would likely depend on the nature of the information and how it’s presented. If the information is too far beyond our current level of understanding, we might not be able to comprehend it, even if we accept that it’s true.

This brings up an interesting point about the nature of knowledge and belief. In some cases, we accept things as true based on evidence and understanding. In other cases, we accept things as true based on faith or trust, even if we don’t fully understand them. This is a complex topic that touches on philosophy, epistemology, and many other fields.